Sentinels, the AI-powered transaction monitoring solution we launched in February 2020, was recently spun out as a separate venture from Slimmer AI. Sentinels Founder & CEO Joost van Houten and team have raised a €5.7M seed round from INKEF Capital and a group of high-profile angel investors, including several members of the early Adyen team. This article by INKEF nicely describes their investment thesis.
We are super proud of what we’ve achieved to date with Sentinels, of Joost and his team, and of the business that they continue to build. Sentinels’ mission matters to all of us: fighting financial crime.
We used the momentum with Sentinels to pivot Slimmer AI into an AI B2B Venture Studio. This pivot builds on our 12 years of experience applying AI to solve real-world problems, and positions us well to leverage current opportunities and momentum to accelerate our growth.
We still develop new AI technology, we still apply this AI tech to solve business problems, and we still build commercially successful B2B software products. The difference? We now set these products and teams up to be separate independent ventures from the start. And rather than do all ideation ourselves, we also work with external founders who come to us to co-build their new venture.
The venture studio model is still relatively new in Europe (here is a great articles about the model). We’re not an accelerator nor an incubator. And we’re certainly not a VC. We continue to build several applied AI B2B ventures from the ground up. This means we’re the opposite of hands-off — we put in the blood-sweat-and-tears during the crucial early stage to build a new world-class company together with a founding team.
And we build multiple ventures, meaning we have the infrastructure and lessons learned to accelerate and de-risk venture building.
As a venture studio we apply the lessons learned over our collective decades of experience in applying AI and in building and scaling B2B software businesses. Taking our most recent example, the lessons learned building and spinning out Sentinels can be summarised as follows:
Nothing beats being in the right market, with the right opportunity and tailwinds. We look at three aspects — and all three are equally important to us:
The last one seems obvious as we’re an AI company. But we’re not always looking at current AI use cases; we are more focused on what AI will be able to unlock in future. Our short-term approach is pragmatic and might even underplay the AI angle, but we will only co-build a new venture if we believe AI will make the difference in the long run.
No venture will be successful without an immensely talented and driven founder(s). And no founder can do it alone. We focus on two aspects:
Without showing early traction, there is no venture. Even though it is true that new B2B ventures typically take more time to gain traction, the right sense of urgency, pragmatism, focus and “growth hack” mentality will make all the difference.
We focus on three aspects, all atypical for a tech company:
Starting a new venture is an intense rollercoaster ride. A founding team does not need us, or another investor or partner, to make it worse. Being the experienced partner with some lessons learned and scars to prove it, we are there to:
At Slimmer AI we’re driven by the impact of applying AI to power people’s work. We help people take better decisions or do less routine, often boring, work. Our pivot to a venture studio allows us to accelerate this impact by building more new AI B2B ventures in Europe.
The next wave of B2B software clearly is AI, and we believe our venture studio approach is the best way to contribute to this. Exciting times ahead!